We are a climate change community impact laboratory.
We are a working class, collaborative laboratory created in response to climate change and its many impacts on our communities.
We use a combination of practical strategies, wild experimentation, affordable tools, and creative interventions to enhance community sustainability and local resilience to climate crisis.
We understand ourselves (and others!) to be both both grassroots scientists of the imagination and on-the-ground strategists for our collective survival.
The Holobiont Laboratory takes seriously our potential as neighborhoods and communities to respond to, reject, remediate, and transform the politically and environmentally toxic conditions we face. A primary goal of our lab is to create useful, affordable tools/equipment and practical strategies to enhance community sustainability and local resilience to climate change. Another is to activate the lab as a lively space for collective community experimentation and essential conjuring of the imagination.
We prioritize projects that are collaborative in nature and designed to support the needs of people, organizations, and movements we want to see thrive. We see our project as one means for building up grassroots power by increasing people’s sense of agency and autonomy. We know that the vast majority of our society’s long-standing inequities – such as the pervasive lack of health care access, structural racism, education disparities, mass incarceration, reproductive injustice, and a paucity of investment in public infrastructures – will only be exacerbated and multiplied by climate chaos within an extraction economy. We can already see this happening.
The Holobiont Laboratory began in June 2020: just four months into a global pandemic that continues to heighten the racial and economic disparities in our society; as people in cities and towns across the nation were pouring out into the streets demanding an end to the police abuse and murder of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people; and as Siberia reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in recorded history (and then kept reaching it).
The Holobiont Laboratory stands with those who strive for more than simply pruning the tree that is our current system while continuing to water its roots. We are not seeking racist, capitalist, or misogynist solutions to climate crisis. We don’t accept that the small-scale, short-term gains of such solutions outweigh the historical costs that they continue to perpetuate. We seek other means and are committed to inventing and pursuing those means collaboratively, in a spirit of imperfect experimentation, knowing that our lives and the lives of all those we love are at stake.
Holobiont is a term used in the biological sciences that looks beyond individual, isolated organisms toward the whole network of dynamic, interconnected elements that make life and survivability possible. The term is derived from the Ancient Greek word hólos (for “whole”) and the word biont (for “unit of life”). Scientists predominantly use the concepts of the holobiont and the hologenome as a means to recognize the fact that all animals and plants have, through the evolutionary process, developed symbiotic relationships with microorganisms. In many cases (like humans and corals), these are critical, life-sustaining relationships that the host organism cannot live without.
For instance, anatomically speaking, only approximately 50% of cells and 1% of genes in the human holobiont belong to the host organism. Development of the human immune system, peripheral nervous system and the brain are all influenced by the presence and activities of microbiota. As the Forsythe Lab of McMaster University puts it, “We would not be who we are without the critical contributions of our symbiotic microbes.”
At the Holobiont Laboratory, we seek to expand the concept of the holobiont (the whole ecological unit) beyond its original terrain in the biological sciences into a lens requiring us to look beyond mere isolated statistics or individual incidents, and account for whole environments, whole people, whole webs of essential dynamic connections in our communities. By adopting a holobiontic perspective, we seek to take account of and honor the value intrinsic in those lives, relationships, and principles which capitalism so often erases, discounts, or destroys via its extractive, profit-motivated processes. Such an understanding of humans' foundational interdependence on one another and on the natural world has tremendous implications which we must acknowledge and respond to.